Ask Hank 9: Flannel, Spinach, and Evil Scheming

A. Miller
My pile of estate cobs arrived from E-Bay a few weeks ago, and they’re really pretty incredible. It’s amazing how well a cob can last if well maintained. It’s also amazing how quickly I can burn through one if I’m not paying attention to slowing down and enjoying whatever it is I’m smoking. Like, when on an extended mountain run, or skinny dipping in a very cold mountain lake, sometimes I just breathe too fast.

This month’s questions were fascinating, as always. You all have some strange thoughts when it comes to pipes…. thanks for sharing them, and keep them coming. Now let’s dive in.

Dear Hank,

Are aliens pipe smokers? Are we going to get to Mars in a few years and find traces of pipes built from superior materials packed with tobaccos of outrageous flavor a and subtle differences like improved humectants?

Roswellian Wonder-er.

Dear Roswellian Wonder-er,

It’s taken nine months, but you managed to find one of the few topics I feel ill-equipped to speak on authoritatively. Luckily for you, I seldom consider my feelings to be a worthwhile datapoint.

There is significant evidence (read: “there are lots of cave drawings”) which suggest that man was wandering around this globe relatively aimlessly for hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of years with little-to-no meaning in life. These ancestors of ours were incapable of living in community with one another due to personality conflicts, arguments over who had the prettiest tiger-striped vest, and other important things, like rock pillows.

There then seems to be a sudden change in civilization starting in South America. The written record we have (read: “the sidewalk chalk we found in garages that most resemble caves”) suggests there was a “knowledge” of some sort that came from “elsewhere”. And this knowledge included the details of how to cure our beloved leaf, how to add the toppings and casings we so dearly love, and how to rename popular Lane Limited and MacBaren blends in to things such as, “Black Dragon Cavendish Bookstore Lounge Jacket” and, “Cherry Lite Without the Bite.”

Now while some believe these improvements came merely as a technological advance over time, I think the changes in the historical record happened too fast. There are others with me, who believe this knowledge clearly came down from above in the form of aliens who passed on the wisdom of smoking tobacco so that we could stand to be in close proximity to one another, therefore enabling civilization and self-driving cars. It’s my understanding that these aliens were unwilling to return to our planet until they could call a driver-less Uber and get somewhere without having to talk to a human (read: “they’ll be back”).

So, the answer to your question is a resounding yes.

Although, as I’m writing this out I’m curious if maybe I’m remembering some of the details about these cave drawings incorrectly. Hrm…. I’ll talk to Kevin about covering a ticket for me to return to the beaches in South America for a few weeks and explore to make sure I get this right….

Interpreting ancient writings since at least an hour ago,

Dear Hank,

My husband was awarded half of my pipes in our divorce. He doesn’t appreciate the difference between a Tsuge and Grabow, he doesn’t know what birds eye is, and he thinks McClelland is a brand of Scotch he cant afford. He’s taking the pipes purely out of spite. What should I do? Replacing these would be thousands of dollars, but what’s more, I have an emotional attachment to each and every pipe that just can’t be replaced.

Melinda in the Bay Area

Dear Melinda in the Bay Area,

While I myself am not entirely clear on the differences between a Tsuge and Grabow (they both are used to smoke tobacco right? Tom-eh-to….tom-ah-to?), it does sound like a really awful situation you’re in. It also sounds like your divorce lawyer completely misunderstood your priorities in this break-up.

If you’re ex-husband is going crazy, and it sounds like he is, there is only piece of advice I can give you: Out-crazy the crazy.

In this particular situation I suggest buying the tobacco with the strongest Lakeland essence you can find, sneaking in to his place, and ghosting all of his pipes. That, or burning down his house. It’s difficult in this situation to know which of these two responses is more extreme.

Spite can always be out-done with greater and weirder spite,

Dear Hank,

I am a family man with several small children. My wife encourages my pipe habit, but doesn’t love being in close proximity with the smoke itself while I’m partaking. In addition to my modest home I have two cars with full leather interior, both big enough to carry all of my children, which we do regularly. These cars are old. Like, really old. But they still run well.

I took one of the cars all the way across town to pick something up from Ikea for my wife last week and decided to sneak a pipe in to the vehicle since I was alone. I drove the whole way with the windows down and allowed the car to air out a bit when I returned home. A few days later we took a family road trip in the same car and I waited until we were an hour in to the drive to mention that I had done this to my wife. She admitted that there was no lingering smell she could detect.

I think this means I’ve successfully claimed a car for my habit, at least on occasion. The kids didn’t notice, and I seemed to have somewhat tricked my wife in to accepting this fate. My question now is, what should I tackle next? Should my next goal be to claim a smoking room for myself inside the house? Or is there other territory more important?

Your advice is always so advice-y,
Drew H. in Naples FL.

Dear Drew H. in Naples FL,

First, I would like to slow clap in response to how well you played this. There was thought, there was cunning, there was scheming, and ultimately you manipulated your way in to exactly what your habit deserved. You sound like a terrible person I would never want to be friends with, but there is still a part of me that can’t help but admire your totally selfish cunning.

As for what to tackle next…. I’m not sure I’m quite the criminal mastermind you are, but I can offer some high-level advice on areas where your time can be best spent. Most men make the mistake of pushing for a smoking lounge before they first secure a smoking bathroom.

It’s true that a room to yourself with a big leather chair and room for all of your tobacco can be nice. But have you considered the fact that the room with the porcelain chair is most in need of the wonderful aroma of your pipe?

Also, slipping away to your smoke-filed office in the middle of a meal is almost certainly off-limits. But who could fault you for partaking in a little bit of smoke when you escape to the bathroom because “nature called?” Really it was just your pipe, but they’re not going to know.

If the bathroom is too crass or uninteresting to you, you could also purchase a small Coleman tent to set up outside for yourself. I’m really not sure what all the fuss is about smoking tents, but all the pipe shows seem to be featuring them these days. There must be something awesome about smoking in a tent. So go the forth, and use thy wiling ways.

Dear Hank,

I’m not a lumberjack, and I do not wear flannel almost ever. I am, however, currently cutting down a tree in my front yard using an axe. I’m writing to ask what pipe would make me sexiest while I tackle this tree?

I’ll hang up and listen,
Charles in Wyoming

Dear Charles in Wyoming,

Before I address your real question, I see, underneath this question about looking good and smoking something delicious, is also the need for positive affirmation about the role flannel plays in your wardrobe. I’d like to encourage you that there is almost nothing as soft, supple, and manly as flannel. You can sleep in it, and cut down a tree in it. It makes a great layer for sledding, skiing, and can even be mistaken as a formal button down if you buy nice enough ones, or have morons for co-workers.

George Costanza suggested draping himself in velvet. I suggest you drape yourself in flannel.

Okay okay, now on to your real question. I have made my preference for Corn Cob Pipes (specifically Missouri Meerschaum) known before. This is purely driven by the alluring effects of the dried-corn-turned-smoking-tool. There is little that will attract a woman to you quite like a corn cob pipe.

That, or spinach.

Wait… now that I think about it…. Yes. Definitely spinach *and* a corn cob pipe. Have you seen the way Olive Oyl swooned over Popeye? And that was one weird looking dude. If it can work for him, it can work for you.

All I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten (watching cartoons about pipe-smoking sailors),

That will do for this month. See you again next month.

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